Inviting customer complaints can kill business, study finds

November 29, 2012

Giving customers a chance to complain can be a bad idea if customers believe they're to blame for a product's failure, a new study from the Sauder School of Business at UBC shows.

"It's commonly assumed that giving customers a chance to voice grievances allows companies to maintain relationships," says Marketing Professor Darren Dahl, who co-authored the recent study with PhD student Lea Dunn.

"But our research shows that when a person feels implicated in a product's failure – think building Ikea furniture – they're more likely to shift blame to the product when complaining and increase ill will toward it."

In an experiment, subjects were divided into two groups and directed to replicate the preparation of an "award-winning smoothie." All of the participants were set-up to fail with poor quality food processors.

Half the group was made to feel the smoothie failure was their fault and the other half was told that it was likely a machine malfunction.

Participants primed to believe the was their fault rated the machine lower on a nine-point scale after complaining – 3.29 – versus the same participants who were not given the chance to complain – 4.31.

Participants primed to blame the processor rated the device higher after given the chance to complain – 4.02 versus 3 out of nine.

A further experiment showed that when self-blamers were provided with affirmative statements about their competence, they became more likely to rate a product favourably after complaining – 5.22 versus 3.36 on a nine-point scale.

"With companies turning to social media to communicate with , the power of has been amplified," says Professor Dahl. "Our study shows that companies shouldn't just let people sound off. They need to be stroking egos, as well."

Explore further: Unhappy customers: Everyone has a right to complain, and does

Related Stories

Washing away good and bad luck

July 20, 2011

Research by marketing professor shows risk taking depends on whether participants recalled past episode of good or bad luck and whether they washed their hands.

Social media, social pressures and the power of opinion

September 21, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- New research from HP's Social Computing Research Group suggests that while social media and the recommendations of others can cause you to change your mind regarding a product or service, it is not in the ...

Shifting blame is socially contagious

November 19, 2009

Merely observing someone publicly blame an individual in an organization for a problem - even when the target is innocent - greatly increases the odds that the practice of blaming others will spread with the tenacity of the ...

Recommended for you

The oldest plesiosaur was a strong swimmer

December 14, 2017

Plesiosaurs were especially effective swimmers. These long extinct "paddle saurians" propelled themselves through the oceans by employing "underwater flight"—similar to sea turtles and penguins. Paleontologist from the ...

Averaging the wisdom of crowds

December 12, 2017

The best decisions are made on the basis of the average of various estimates, as confirmed by the research of Dennie van Dolder and Martijn van den Assem, scientists at VU Amsterdam. Using data from Holland Casino promotional ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.